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Soda shop with 1,100 varieties plans to open on Massachusetts Street
My bladder already is doing cartwheels. A new business is coming to downtown Lawrence, and it will bring with it 1,100 varieties of soda to Massachusetts Street.
Mass Street Soda plans to open by St. Patrick's Day at 1103 Massachusetts St., the vacant storefront just south of Englewood Florist. Self-described "soda dorks" Matt Baysinger and Luke Thompson will open the business, and Baysinger told me the store really will stock about 1,100 varieties of soda.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. The store had better have a really big bathroom. Oh, you were thinking that you couldn't believe there are actually 1,100 varieties of soda in the world. (If you have ever stood behind my kids at a self-service soda fountain, you would think there are 1,100 varieties to choose from at McDonalds.)
Baysinger said the specialty soda business really has taken off as the craft brewing industry has exploded. He estimated that about 50 percent of the brands that the shop will carry are produced by companies that also brew beer. He said small breweries have taken to brewing root beer so they have a product to offer children or others who don't partake in alcohol. But he said there's also a surprising number of small soda companies that still exist from the 1800s, back in the day when all soda brands were local or regional in nature.
"We'll have every variety of orange soda, orange cream soda, watermelon soda, grape soda," Baysinger said. "We'll even have a beef jerky soda. I think it is gross, but surely some people will like it."
The store is even trying to work out a contract to get the Butterscotch Beer soda that was made popular in the Harry Potter movies.
But expect a heavy dose of root beers and cream sodas. In fact, it was cream soda that partly got Baysinger involved in this venture. Baysinger said he has never consumed alcohol, but has attended many parties where his friends would be drinking fancy craft beers. So, he decided he would start bringing craft versions of cream soda. About four years ago, his love of cream soda led him to start his own website: [drinkcreamsoda.com]. The site would post reviews of various cream soda brands.
"I got a lot of cream soda out of it, so that was pretty cool," said Baysinger.
Baysinger said there are a few other specialty soda shops in adjacent states, and he thinks the concept will benefit from the same ideas that have fueled the "foodie" movement.
"People really are going back to the idea of wanting quality stuff," said Baysinger, who has been in Lawrence since 2004 when he came to KU to run track. "We want to be part of that as well."
In the beginning, the store won't have a food menu, but Baysinger said it may expand into food, and also may stock a variety of hard candy and candy that is hard to find. The shop will have ice cream to serve root beer and soda floats.
Baysinger said the store also will have a traditional soda bar, although all the soda will be served in bottles. He said the shop will have a definite feel of a 1930s or 1940s soda shop, although with WiFi.
It also will have somewhat of a sports feel at times. During the NCAA tournament, the shop plans to host what it calls "Parched Madness," an event where sodas will square off in a 16-soda tournament. Patrons will be able to sample one-ounce versions of soda and then vote on which brands should advance in the tournament.
The store also will have one other twist. During the evening hours, the shop will convert over to an art-party business. Baysinger's wife is an art instructor, and has been hosting art parties at their home for years. That seems to be a bit of an emerging trend as well. If you remember, we reported on a West Lawrence company, Painted Kanvas, that plans to get into that business. The idea is a group of friends gather to learn how to create a piece of artwork. Baysinger said in their shop, the art won't just focus on painting, but also will include other crafts such as leatherworking or Pinterest parties or other such stuff.
Who knows, maybe it will even include creative readings. I could read a piece that I believe was inspired by drinking 1,100, one-ounce samples of soda: Dash to the Restroom. By Willie Makeit and Betty Don't.
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